Starting Fluid vs Carb Cleaner-What To Use And When For Your Motorcycle

1. Can you use carb cleaner as a starting fluid for your motorcycle?

Yes, you can use carb cleaner as a starting fluid, but do so only if it is an emergency and when you have no other alternative. Take the necessary precautions.

  • Carb cleaner comes in aerosols spray can and ordinary cans. Only the one that comes in aerosol spray cans should be used as a starting fluid.
  • Read the contents label on the aerosol spray can and ensure it contains flammable and combustible substances; generally, non-chlorinated types are flammable.

The carb cleaner is toxic and is harmful to human skin. Use it in an open area and take the precaution of wearing a mask and gloves.

carb cleaner

Carb cleaner is not meant to be used as a combustible fuel. Therefore, it will emit harmful toxic elements in the exhaust when used as a starting fluid.

Carb cleaner is basically a cleaning fluid and when used as a starting fluid on a motorcycle it will clean the oil layer in the cylinder; using carb cleaner as a starting fluid is specifically more harmful to a two-stroke motorcycle engine since it depends on gasoline mixed with oil for its lubrication. A dry run of the engine will harm it.

CAUTION: Please take the following precautions when using a starting fluid
on your motorcycle
.
  • Take your motorcycle to an open area before using the starting fluid.
  • Ensure the engine is cold.
  • Wear a mask, eye-glasses, and gloves for your safety.
  • Spray a very small quantity and keep the can away from the motorcycle.
  • There can be a risk of fire if you have sprayed more quantity of the carb cleaner or any starting fluid.

II. What is the starting fluid?

Many times, you face the problem where the engine of your motorcycle is not starting due to the cold weather or other issues.

Starting fluid offers a solution for such situations.

Starting fluid contains diethyl ether and carbon dioxide as a propellant (or butane and propane, propane as a propellant as well as a combustible fuel) and comes in an aerosol spray can.

Apart from highly combustible, starting fluid is a good cleaning agent and can clean the oil layer in the cylinder of your motorcycle; starting fluid is specifically more harmful to a two-stroke motorcycle engine since it depends on gasoline mixed with oil for its lubrication. A dry run of the engine will harm your motorcycle engine.

Experienced mechanics use starting fluid as a diagnostic tool; if the engine starts with the starting fluid but fails to start with conventional methods, the problem can be that the engine is not getting fuel due to clogged fuel line or a dirty carburetor.

Starting fuel should be used only as a last alternative and in an emergency like a motorcycle not starting due to cold weather. It should not be used as a routine.

Starting fluid contains diethyl ether and will affect your health if inhaled.

Please see CAUTION at I.

III. Using starting fluid on a motorcycle

You can spray a very small quantity of the starting fluid into the carburetor, by taking the air-filter out or you can spray a very small quantity into the engine cylinder by removing the spark plug. Ensure you have put in place the air-filter or the spark plug before you attempt to start the engine. Do this in an open-air environment for safety.

Starting fluid is generally not recommended for a two-stroke engine motorcycle since it does not contain lubricating oil. When sprayed, it cleans all the old oil traces in the cylinder which may lead to the metal to metal contact between the piston rings and the cylinder, thereby causing harm to the engine.

Starting fluid contains diethyl ether and will affect your health if inhaled.

You must use the starting fluid only in case of an emergency. It should not be used for routine purposes.

Also, the starting fluid may only solve the problem temporarily; if your motorcycle engine is not getting fuel because of a clogged fuel line or a dirty carburetor, the starting fluid may start your motorcycle engine only momentarily. Consult your mechanic in such cases.

Starting fluid is a highly flammable and combustible substance; hence take all the precautions when using it. Please see the CAUTION in section I.

When sprayed into the engine through the spark plug hole in more than the required quantity, the fuel may get ignited before the piston reaches its top position, which can lead to fire accidents.

IV. Using brake cleaner as a starter fluid

Yes, you can use brake cleaner as a starting fluid, but do so only if it is an emergency.

There are two more things to note

  • Brake cleaner comes in aerosols spray can and ordinary cans. Only the one in aerosol-cans should be used as a starting fluid.
  • Read the contents label on the aerosol can and ensure it contains flammable and combustible substances; generally, non-chlorinated types are flammable.

The brake cleaner is toxic and is harmful to human skin and eyes. Use it in an open area and take the precaution of wearing a mask, safety glass, and gloves.

Brake cleaner is not meant to be used as a combustible fuel and when used as a starting fluid, it will emit harmful toxic elements in the exhaust.

Brake cleaner is basically a cleaning fluid and will clean the oil layer in the cylinder when used as a starting fluid in a motorcycle. Using brake cleaner as a starting fluid is specifically more harmful to a two-stroke motorcycle engine since it depends on gasoline mixed with oil for its lubrication.

A dry run of the engine will harm it. However, brake cleaner is better than a starting fluid since it has some oil in it.

The exhaust is more toxic than when you use gasoline or starting fluid.

Please see CAUTION in section I.

V. Starting fluid substitute

In the previous paragraphs, we have discussed using Carb cleaner and Brake cleaner as a starting fluid.

If you have a small bottle with a spray gun, fill the bottle with a small quantity of gasoline and oil mixture taken from a two-stroke lawn-mower or from your friend’s two-stroke motorcycle and you can use it as a starting fluid. Make sure that you are using it in the open air and and when the engine is cold.

You must spray a very small quantity of the gasoline-oil mix. Since this mix contains oil it will not harm the two-stroke engine.  If you have a four-stroke engine motorcycle, you can use the same gas oil mixture or pure gasoline.

Please see CAUTION in section I.

VI. Carb cleaner uses

The carburetor is the heart of your engine and keeps your engine running at all stages like starting, idling, slow speed, and high speed by ensuring the supply of proper quality of fuel-air mixture to the engine.

A clean and efficient carburetor will give you fuel efficiency and more miles per gallon of gasoline.

The carburetor may get dirty and gummed if the motorcycle is not used regularly or if old or stale fuel enters it. The carburetor has fuel jets with very small orifices and the jets will get clogged if the fuel is dirty.

Therefore, the carburetor should be cleaned to remove the gum and dirt from its parts including the jets, to make it work again.

A good carb cleaner cleans the dirt, gum, gunk, and carbon deposits from the internal parts of the carburetor including its fuel jets and float assembly.

You have two types of Carb cleaners, Chlorinated and Non-chlorinated., Non-chlorinated is more flammable.

You can get them in spray or aerosol cans or in containers. Spray or aerosol cans are preferred since you can force the carb cleaner through the tiny holes of the fuel jets.

A clean carburetor will give you a trouble-free ride in your motorcycle by ensuring that a proper ratio of fuel and air is supplied to the engine.

A clean carburetor will improve your engine’s performance and fuel efficiency.

VII. Conclusion

Starting fluid is like a strong medicine and should only be used in cases when there is no alternative available. Discuss with your mechanic and understand the complexity before using it.

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